365-Day “Live Off Groupon” Challenge Draws to a Close

Josh Stevens' year-long Groupon adventure came to an end Tuesday. For 365 days the 29-year-old local lived off deals supplied by the group-buying site as part of an elaborate and quirky contest.

He wasn't allowed to work, just given $100 and had to live exclusively off Groupons. For successfully completing the challenge, he nabbed $100,000, and Groupon got loads of publicity to pump up its name recognition, said Groupon spokeswoman Julie Mossler.

"The beauty of the 'Live Off Groupon' marketing program is the fact that every single time Josh uses a Groupon he has to explain what it is and how the website works," said Mossler. "So if you think about it, every time he want to have a meal or trade a Groupon so he has somewhere to sleep, he has to explain how the site works and the ins and outs of Groupon."

Groupon's true pupose of this contest was to reach non-believers or those who had never heard of the site. Stevens was able to talk directly to potiental customers, but he blogged and tweeted about the experience as well to keep followers up to date though his journey. He also made appearances on the Today Show and did other interviews along the way.   

Groupon feels this campaign sucessfully touched millions of lives with their cross-county roving spokesperson telling his story though all the right social media outlets, but critics are wondering how sucessful it has really been.

"I have been a Groupon member for two years, and my husband has been a member for one," said Karee Rubinstein Wallach of Arlington Heights. "I had absolutely no idea that Groupon was doing this promotion."

I believe there is a spike of interest only in the first and last day of publicity stunts like these and a sharp drop-off in the middle. Were you still checking in on Month at the Museum winner Kate McGroarty's blog by day 8? That doesn't mean there are other intangible benefits that might come later from it, though.

"[This] helped get them some press but, more importantly, [it] helped increase their brand's personality [of being] fun, creative, and current," said presentation/communication specialist Constance Dunn. "Gimmicky promotions, the more out-there the better, are excellent and cost-effective ways to increase awareness. But always make sure the gist of the contest squares with your brand."

Even Groupon's harshest critic would have to agree the contest was a logical extension of the brand.

"You can measure [a surge] in name recognition quantitatively and qualitatively," explained Dunn. "If you're a small entrepreneur... you and your sales team might keep your ears open for anecdotal evidence."

Of that, there's plenty for Groupon. Heck, even Groupon's competitors have been praising the contest.

Jess Swain, director of brand strategy for DealPulp (a group-buying site that exclusively offers deals on e-merchants' wares), said, "It was certainly a creative marketing strategy. When you set out to prove something with a promotion like this, you're certainly taking a risk. [But] the boldness of this kind of promotion is pretty much guaranteed to draw attention."

After all, it was this sort of boldness that inspired countless others to be Groupon clones.

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